2017 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction · war · World War I

Book Review: Worth Fighting For by Mary-Anne O’Connor

Title: Worth Fighting Forworth fighting

Author:  Mary-Anne O’Connor

Published: September 19th 2016

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 427

Genres:  Fiction, Historical, Australian, War

RRP: $22.49

Rating: 4 stars

From Darwin to Pearl Harbour, Sydney to Papua New Guinea, a compelling story of courage, honour and a great love set against the epic backdrop of the Second World War

Eighteen-year-old Junie Wallace is a smart girl and, with her two brothers away at war and her third brother just killed in action, she knows there is only one way to save the family farm for her grieving parents. Unfortunately, that solution involves marrying the unscrupulous Ernest, and breaking the heart of the young drover she loves, Michael.

But the war is looming ever closer, and when Pearl Harbour brings the threat of Japanese aggression to Australian shores, the fates of many becomes inextricably interwoven.

From the explosive battles of the Pacific campaign to the desperate fighting in the Papuan New Guinea rainforest; the dancehall gaiety of Sydney’s Trocadero to the terror of the Darwin bombings, this epic family saga brings home the importance of mateship and of fighting for what you believe in, even when impossible odds seem stacked against you, even when all seems lost…

Worth Fighting For is a resounding testament to the enduring force of love: a reminder of what can be achieved if you draw on your reserves of courage and listen to the truth in your heart.

My review:

In 2015, I read Gallipoli Street, a wonderful Australian based historical fiction testament to the ANZACS and the First World War, written by debut author Mary-Anne O’Connor. O’Connor is back with a brand new and ambitious novel, focussed on the Second World War experience, titled Worth Fighting For. This book is a heartfelt tribute to the war experience, both on the front and the sacrifices made on home soil, featuring an enigmatic leading lady.

Junie Wallace lives with her family in the country location of Braidwood, New South Wales. Together they manage the family farm, but when the war breaks out the Wallace’s farm is under threat of staying afloat. Despite being in love with gentle young farmer Michael Riley, Junie puts her feelings aside for the sake of her family. Junie goes into a loveless marriage with the wealthy Ernest Farthington , alll to save her family’s livelihood. While circumstance separates Junie and Michael, so does the war raging across the globe. Worth Fighting For covers the war in Papua New Guinea, the threat to Australia’s shores and even brings in the bombing of Pearl Harbour. It is an all encompassing story of the impact of war.

Worth Fighting For is a novel that has a very fitting title. At its core, this novel is about fighting for a cause, as well as the determination, courage and loyalty shown by those in the face of the war. Endurance is a key theme which I took away from this novel and the compulsion to never give up on what matters.

Junie is a character who shows the reader what it is like to be a woman on the home front in country Australia during the Second World War. Junie is a woman who makes clear sacrifices to protect her family. It was emotional to read about the loss of the Wallace clan and the countless other families that suffered loss in the small country town of Braidwood. I did feel a sense of sentimentality towards Junie, especially when she made the heartbreaking decision to cut ties with Michael and join in a loveless union with Ernest. Junie’s love interest Michael allows us to understand more about the Australian soldier’s experience in the Pacific. Michael’s perspective is also tied with American soldier Marlon Stone’s experiences in Pearl Harbour. The Pearl Harbour sequences were highly charged and had dramatic impact on this reader. By contrast, the unlikeable character of the story, Ernest, is detestable from the very opening scenes of this novel. I was equally suspicious of the character of Junie’s friend Eliza and her motivations. It turns out that I was correct in my assumptions of this character. Eliza is just one of a few obstacles in the pathway to Junie’s final shot at happiness. At the end of the day, it is Junie who is the shining star of this novel. Junie’s mental anguish and what she experiences during the events of the novel, demonstrates the lengths one goes to for love, loyalty and sacrifice in this fascinating era.

Worth Fighting For features an expansive setting. O’Connor takes us on a journey to country Australia, to cities such as Sydney and Darwin, along with the battlefields of the Pacific, the harshness of Papua New Guinea and all the way to Pearl Harbour in her novel. As a result, Worth Fighting For is a book that is rich in historical detail. The war experience in particular comes alive for the reader, as we become a part of the desperate fight for survival with the characters of the novel.

Worth Fighting For is a well informed historical piece of fiction. After I had finished this novel, I discovered that it was inspired by the author’s family background. This gave the book more purpose and meaning, as I could see how the characters of this novel were clearly woven from a rich family history.  Worth Fighting For is a solid follow on from Gallipoli Street author Mary-Anne O’Connor and another memorable Australian war experience novel.

Worth Fighting For, by Mary-Anne O’Connor was published in September 2016 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Worth Fighting For, Mary-Anne O’Connor, visit here.


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